NLD dismisses calls to postpone election because of Covid-19 outbreak

Top officials from the NLD have decided in a closed-door meeting that calls to postpone the election because of the recent outbreak of Covid-19 are not “credible”, an official has said.

The USDP and 24 other parties sent a letter to the Union Election Commission (UEC) on Tuesday asking it to reconsider the November 8 election date.

But NLD spokesperson Dr Myo Nyunt said the ruling party feels the election ought to go ahead. 

“Our opinion is that there isn’t a credible enough reason to postpone the election,” he told Myanmar Now. “If the circumstances change, we’ll follow what the authorities decide on,” he said.

He did not specify when the internal discussion took place, who was involved, or how a consensus was reached.

The party had told some local branches to pause campaigns in regions where the infection rate is high, added Dr Myo Nyunt, who is also part of the party’s victory committee.

That included townships in Yangon with stay-at-home orders and several other regions, he said, without giving further details.

“We’re only pausing the campaigns for three to five days, not entirely,” he said.

Several NLD candidates said campaigning has stopped for now in Mandalay, Sagaing, Pegu and Ayeyarwady regions.

“We put the campaigns on hold… because there were confirmed cases in the two towns next to Wuntho,” said Nay Soe Aung, an NLD candidate contesting a seat in Wuntho, Sagaing. 

“It’s true that campaigns are important but putting the general public’s well-being into consideration, we came to this decision,” he added. 

Campaign events requiring gatherings have been halted in Oak Phyu township in Pegu, said Zaw Min, an NLD candidate there.

“We’re doing our campaigning online. Then, we’ll do stickers. There won’t be a lot of people, just three or four people going around to homes directly. And if the homes agree, we’ll put up our stickers and flags,” he said.

Myanmar has now recorded over 3,200 Covid-19 infections and 32 deaths, the majority in the past two weeks.

USDP chair Than Htay at a flag-raising event in Naypyitaw on September 9 (Nyan Hlaing Lin/Myanmar Now)

The USDP says it has halted all campaigns with large gatherings. Party chair Than Htay said on Wednesday it “wouldn’t be pleasant” to win an election during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Even if we won the election, without winning Covid it wouldn’t be a real victory and we’d be planting our victory flag in an unstable country. That wouldn’t be pleasant,” he said.

In response to those comments, NLD central executive committee secretary Monywa Aung Shin said the USDP was not ready for the election and was making “excuses”.

The People’s Pioneer Party, the People’s Party, the Democratic Party for a New Society and the United Nationalities Democracy Party have also called on the UEC to postpone the poll.

The commission has not responded to several requests for comment on the calls. 

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